It’s Thanksgiving morning, 2002, and the house is suffused with heavenly aromas, the family is all here, a fire crackles in the fireplace, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on in the background. Two of my daughter’s friends are in the parade, so we are watching the whole thing (they’re supposed to be right behind the Charlie Brown balloon). We’re now 30 minutes into the parade, and so far we’ve seen about 30 seconds of the parade, 10 minutes of yapping hosts (plugging their respective NBC shows), and 20 minutes of (for some reason) Broadway stage production numbers performed on the street (so far we’ve seen selections from Oklahoma, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and The Producers).
The entire thing is so inexplicable that it’s making my head hurt. Take, for instance, the selection from The Producers. The number consisted of some guy singing about wanting to be a producer, while surrounded by six half-naked dancing girls. A seventh dancing girl comes out, and she’s a little bit…healthier…than the rest of the girls, and our producer wannabe proceeds to select the six heroin addicts, and then says to the less-thin one, ‘Not you!’, and she slinks off in shame. He then proceeds to sing about wanting to be a producer so that he can ‘drink champagne til I puke’. And he then proceeds to smack each dancing girl on her tush. So the gist was, being less-thin is shameful, and success = drinking until one vomits and then groping one’s attractive employees. Ah yes, what a heartwarming holiday message for the kids.
We’re now an hour into the parade, and we still have seen, literally, about 30 seconds of parade. We’re now watching the Rockettes. “How tacky,” is my Mom’s considered opinion. Not that the Rockettes, themselves, are tacky, just that our family is tuned in to watch a parade, and we’re instead seeing an infomercial for NBC and Broadway. Having watched the parade for a large portion of my life, I was prepared for all the cross-marketing by the host network. But what is the Broadway connection? Some rebirth-of-New-York falderol? (Hey, they just showed a balloon for about 7 seconds right before the commercial break! Hallelujah!) Back to Broadway. The New York Broadway phenomenon is truly amazing. New York has managed to create a concentration of stage productions in one place, and all of the faithful devotees of that type of entertainment can go to one place to satisfy their singing/dancing/choreographed/costumed/from-the-diaphragm jones.
But, in the typical myopia of the right coast, the producers of this parade have failed to realize that in every other major metropolitan area in the US, traveling Broadway stage productions are underwritten by corporate sponsors, because they would not be profitable otherwise. Broadway shows make their money on Broadway. The people who enjoy Broadway shows go to Broadway to see them, or they wait for the show to come to their town. And these people are so few and far between that the road shows can’t make money on their own (unlike things like NASCAR, wrestling, movies, rock concerts, and/or professional sports, for instance). There are the few-and-far-between exceptions, but they are, well, few and far between. I think the producers need to remember that popular-in-New-York does not equate to popular-everywhere. You’d think they’d pick up the hint from the fact that, since Broadway shows are not successful outside of New York, that a Broadway-themed Thanksgiving Day Parade might have limited appeal. Oh well, perhaps there aren’t too many math majors on Broadway.
I’m happy to report that we’re now into the second hour, and we’ve actually seen the drill team that my daughter’s friends are in, although we did not spot them specifically. We also saw some singing and dancing on the Sesame Street float, but I have no quibble with that, since Sesame Street has proven its widespread popularity. We then saw the runner-up from American Idol (Justin somebodyortheother), and then an actual marching band. A marching band in a parade? Well, I never! At least not for the first hour.